Activist Group Criticizes Kc Bishop over Sexual Abuse Issue

By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
November 6, 2009

The bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese has failed to report accusations of sexual abuse and lawsuit settlements to the public, an activist group alleged Friday.

"Despite a national sex abuse policy that mandates openness and despite Bishop Finn's repeated promises to be open about clergy sex cases, at least in this diocese, it's business as usual," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, at a news conference outside the chancery.

Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said current Bishop Robert Finn was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and could not be reached for comment. But she said the diocese had numerous policies and practices in place to protect children, including removing from ministry those who were credibly accused, pending a fuller investigation.

Clohessy was referring to Joseph Hart, retired bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne in Wyoming, who was a priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese for 20 years; and Joseph Vincent Sullivan, a former auxiliary bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese.

The diocese last year settled a $10 million lawsuit that included several allegations against Hart and in 2007 contributed $10,000 to a settlement in a lawsuit filed against Sullivan in Hawaii.

Clohessy said the diocese did not reveal the lawsuit or settlement involving Sullivan until several months ago, when asked by a reporter whether there had been any allegations against him when he was in Kansas City. Sullivan, who died in 1982, was an auxiliary bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese from 1967 to 1974.

"We learned just last month that another lawsuit against Bishop Sullivan was settled for $225,000 down in Louisiana," Clohessy said.

Clohessy said the diocese had an obligation to inform the public about lawsuits settled against former priests and to reach out to those who may have been abused in other states where the priests visited or worked over the years.

Clohessy also expressed anger that Hart, who left Kansas City in 1976, had not been defrocked.

Hart has denied all allegations against him. Summers said Friday that "under Canon Law, our diocese has no jurisdiction over Bishop Joseph Hart."

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334.


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